Republican Governor John Kasich, one of the last ones standing in the contest for the GOP presidential nomination last year (who stayed in the race mostly for reasons of principle), made news in his home state last week as he spoke to members of the Ohio Newspaper Association about his belief in the importance of free press.
Kasich also spoke about other matters, but his comments on journalism were of particular interest to his audience, especially as tensions build between President Trump and the media, and traditional newspapers struggle to survive and redefine themselves in the cyber age.
“I’d like to stand for all of you,” Kasich said, praising those who “decided in a really crazy, changing world that your point of view, your editorials, your writings, your articles are critically important.”
Kasich’s remarks caused me to think of the changing media landscape over the course of my life and what a significant role newspapers played in my formative years.
In my home as I was growing up, we received two daily newspapers – one local and one state. For many years the state paper had an afternoon edition, but eventually both papers were delivered in the mornings.
The first thing my father did when he woke each morning was to go retrieve both papers from the driveway. If one was not there, he would immediately call the circulation desk of whichever one was missing.
He would conduct a quick once-over of both publications before leaving for work, and in the evenings he would read each of them with thoroughness.
He would also work the Jumble, the scrambled word game, an activity in which my mother also participated. (They called it “the words”). Whoever would first work “the words” could not write in the answers until the other one had completed the day’s puzzle. My mother was usually first, and on the occasion she would forget and write them in before my dad had worked them, things could get a bit tense.
My mother also worked the crossword puzzle and the “cryptoquote” each day. They both faithfully read the comics.
At night they would discuss items of interest from the papers, including editorials, and would each write the occasional letter to the editor about various matters, but usually in support of conservative political causes or candidates. They would often disagree with editorial policy, but never enough to cancel a subscription. (They threatened it a few times, though).
The voluminous Sunday papers, chock full of inserts, fliers and expanded sections (and color comics), took them hours to devour.
Not surprisingly, I suppose, the respect for the daily newspaper demonstrated by my parents took root in me at a fairly young age. I began to read the comics and to work “the words” along with them, and eventually ventured over to hard news, editorials and sports.
I started a weekly neighborhood newspaper at age 12, which I wrote by hand. The first edition was delivered to five families, and each one was handwritten.
Fortunately, only once did I have to write the same thing five or more times. Impressed with my new venture, a businessman neighbor offered to be my first staff member (“printer”) and made copies of my original work at his office.
Circulation soon doubled and I expanded the staff to include an assistant editor and delivery girl. I pulled double duty as editor-in-chief and advertising manager. The profit margin was slim, with subscription costs of five cents per issue, and ads costing a dime.
Fortunately, overhead was virtually nil and my printer offered his services for free. I was able to throw a few coins at the other staff members and keep a little for myself.
News items included stories of vacations, illnesses, successful fishing trips and college plans for recent graduates. My mother became my proofreader when I broke the news of her purchase of a wig.
When the local daily ran a feature on me and “The Neighborhood News,” there was another bump in circulation and, since it was an election year, I even ran a few ads for local candidates. Business was good.
In all, I believe there were 16 editions. “The Neighborhood News” was largely a summer project that died a natural death about a month after school started that year. After my dad died in 2006 and my brother and I were getting his house ready to sell, I found all of them, as well as the feature story from the local paper.
Although a short lived endeavor, the bug had bit. I went on to write for my high school and college papers and majored in journalism. My career path took a different direction, but I have never lost my affinity for the written word, and news in general, one of the reasons I am honored to have a small part in this publication.
I am also very defensive of the press in general. I can keep quiet about political differences, but when I am around people who start to criticize and stereotype the news media as a whole, I pipe up pretty quickly.
I know there are some less than stellar journalists out there (just as there are less than stellar folks in every profession and business), and we are saturated with news, “fake news” (oh how I loathe that term) and every type of comment someone with a cell phone wants to make.
But we all have brains, and we have the ability to filter the good from the bad.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
I couldn’t agree more.
The news might be disseminated differently than it was a generation ago but, like Governor Kasich, I’ll continue to stand for those who bring it to us.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, husband of one, father of three and father-in-law of two. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.